Many are unaware of the effects addiction has on the family of the addict. The disease is so powerful that is swoops in silently taking the entire family hostage like a cancerous growth slowly robbing all family members including the addict of their values, emotions, and soul.
It can be described as a “parallel” disease. The family members will experience the same feelings, ultimately portraying the same unhealthy harming behaviors as the addict. For example, the feelings the addict experiences, such as, FEAR (denial that there is a problem), GUILT and SHAME (hiding, lying, false promises, manipulating others), RESENTMENTS (blaming others, anger, grudges), DEPRESSION (loss of interest, suicidal thoughts, loss of self-respect, dignity), TOLERANCE (addiction and consequences worsen) can also be seen in the family members as well.
FEAR (denying family member has a problem), GULIT and SHAME (keeping it a secret, no one else can know, not acceptable by society), RESENTMENTS (blaming others, anger, rage), DEPRESSION (loss of interest in own self, feelings of unworthiness), TOLERANCE (increasing the line once again enabling “use” to continue).
Often it ends up like a tango dance, making problems worse, not better. It’s counter-intuitive for the family members to do recovery work. They just want to fix it! But the truth is, all are effected and need to do their own program of recovery whether the addicted person gets help or not. For example, once the addicted person is sober and following a program of recovery if they “slip” and “use,” it’s considered a relapse. A relapse for a family member would be, checking and looking for drugs/alcohol.
Bottom line for family members and a good motto to follow is the three C’s: You didn’t Cause it! You can’t Control it! But you can learn how to Cope with it!
Once society accepts and understands addiction is a disease we will all be healthier and happier for it. We will stop hiding, avoiding, and walking on eggshells, with the fear of having an illness within the family that is often unacceptable and misunderstood by society.
If you or a family member is suffering from an addiction reach out for help. Have the hope, courage and strength to do so. It will and can get better!
About Carole Eastman
Carole is an addiction counselor whose passion is to provide support to others suffering from the disease of addiction and mental health disorders. In recovery from alcoholism for over 6 years, Carole understands the barriers and challenges many face in order to achieve a better quality of life which we are all so deserving of. Carole has raised three children as a single mother and after many years of struggling now enjoys living life on life’s terms. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, and follow her story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog.